Shrimp alla Buzara

I was recently on Vancouver Island with fresh fish and seafood all about. These side striped shrimp are new to me. Even when raw they are brightly coloured. This is the perfect dish for these shrimp.

Also important,the side stripe shrimp are on the Ocean Wise list of sustainably harvested fish and seafood. They come from the coast of British Columbia and are harvested with a beam trawl. This is a cone shaped basket that is towed close to the sea bed. It is an Ocean Wise approved method of harvesting shrimp and small fish.

This recipe is from the cookbook Lidia's Italy. She suggests serving right in the pan. Put out a bowl for shells and serve with plenty of garlicky grilled bread to sop up all the juices.

When purchasing all fish but especially shrimp check that it has the Ocean Wise label. The Vancouver Aquarium has the Ocean Wise program to let us know which fish are being harvested sustainably. Find the information at Ocean Wise at www.oceanwise.ca

Shrimp alla Buzara
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 c. bread crumbs, preferably fresh
4 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 c. finely chopped shallots
2 c. dry white wine, divided
2 tbsp. tomato puree
1 tbsp. cognac or brandy
4 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
2 lb. large raw shrimp, tails and heads on
Chopped parsley and olive oil for garnish

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the breadcrumbs and saute until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Be careful not to burn.

Add the garlic and shallots and saute until soft – about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of white wine and stir until the wine is nearly evaporated and the shallots are softened, about 3 -4 minutes.

Add the tomato puree and stir into the shallot mixture, caramelizing.

Add the rest of the wine and cognac, bringing to a boil, then add the parsley.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently while cooking the shrimp.

In another large skillet, heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil over medium high heat until very hot. Add the shrimp to the pan and saute until shells just turn pink.

Add the shrimp to the simmering sauce.  Allow to simmer for a few more minutes. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Turn off heat.

Drizzle with good quality olive oil and chopped parsley. Serve with crusty grilled bread. 


NOLAs Beignets and Cherry Rolls with a side of Apple Fritters

It's a trifecta of coffee time treats today and the winner is beignets. I have been longing for beignets and finally I gathered my courage to make them. As with so many times in life, it wasn't that difficult. They worked first time. If I can make them, so can you. 

Perhaps it is the fear of a vat of oil. No, I'm not afraid of hot oil, only oil. I don't like the picture inside my head of me consuming all that oil.  Add in the pillowy softness of the beignet and sweet powdered sugar and all those negative images disappear. These are so darned good! They must be eaten right away and cut immediately before deep frying.

Walnut apple fritters are equally yummy and also are best if consumed right away. Get everything ready to go before guests arrive and then do the baking and frying. Why not have a treat once in awhile?

Beignet pronounced ben-yay is a staple in New Orleans made popular by the Café du Monde. These are to be eaten hot and heavily dusted with powdered sugar. 
Beignet dough can do double duty as cherry rolls. One recipe, two presentations. I make one recipe of dough and split it in half. This will make 18 cherry rolls and about 30 beignets.
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/2 c. warm water 125 mL
1 tsp. sugar 5 mL
1 c. evaporated milk 250 mL
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp. salt 5 mL
1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
1 c. water 250 mL
1/4 c. shortening 60 mL
7 c. flour 1.65 L
Combine yeast, water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let stand 5 minutes. Add evaporated milk, eggs, salt and sugar.
Heat one cup (250 mL) water until hot, about 115 F (46 C). Stir in shortening until melted. Add to yeast mixture. Beat at low speed using the paddle attachment, gradually adding four cups of flour, until smooth. Gradually add up to three cups (700 mL) more flour, beating until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl; roll dough to grease top. Cover and chill four hours or keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to one week. 
Turn dough out onto a floured surface; roll to 1⁄4-inch (6 mm) thickness. Cut into 2 1⁄2 inch (6.5 cm) squares.
Pour oil to depth of two to three inches (5 to 7.5 cm) into a Dutch oven; heat to 360 F (182 C). Fry dough, in batches, 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on a wire rack. Dust immediately with lots of powdered sugar. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 F (93 C) oven up to 30 minutes. 

Cherry Rolls
1 recipe beignet dough
1 can cherry pie filling
1 c. icing sugar 250 mL
1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
1 tbsp. milk 15 mL
Gently roll dough between your hands to make a 12 inch (30 cm) rope. On parchment lined baking sheet, loosely coil each rope. Leave two inches (5 cm) between coiled ropes. Cover with a cloth and set in a warm place. Let rise one to two hours or until doubled in size. 
Preheat oven to 400 F (205 C). Press the center of each roll with your fingers until you touch baking sheet. Make indentations about an inch (2.5 cm) wide. Spoon cherry pie filling into each indentation. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Beat until smooth. Drizzle buns with glaze. Serve immediately.
Walnut Apple Fritters 
I love the doughnut shape of a slice of apple in this fritter. You could also coarsely chop and stir apples into the batter and drop by spoonfuls into hot oil.

1 c. walnuts 250 mL
3/4 c. sugar 175 mL
1 3/4 c. flour 425 mL
1/2 tsp. salt 3 mL
a pinch of ground cloves
3/4 – 1 c. buttermilk 175-250 mL
1 large egg
oil for deep-frying
6 medium sized firm apples
powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C). Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for five minutes until lightly roasted but not too dark. Remove from oven and cool completely.
To prepare the batter, place the cooled toasted walnuts and sugar in a food processor and process until the nuts are ground to a fine powder. Add flour, salt and cloves and pulse a few times to mix.
In a small bowl, lightly whisk the buttermilk and egg together. With the motor running, slowly add the egg mixture to the nut mixture in the food processor, blending until just incorporated. The batter should be thick but pourable. Transfer batter to a clean bowl and set aside.
Heat oil in an electric deep fat fryer or in a deep frying pan to a temperature of 325 F (160 C). While the oil is heating, prepare apples. Leave the skin on the apples and remove the cores using a corer, leaving the apples whole. Cut each apple into four or five slices and carefully dry.
When the oil is hot, dip each apple slice in the batter until completely covered, then place in batches into the hot oil and deep fry for three to four minutes, turning regularly, until cooked, crisp and golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove and drain the cooked fritters on a cooling rack placed in a baking sheet. Continue until all apple rings are cooked. Dust with powdered sugar.  Serve immediately.


Spelt and Haskap Quick Bread

This should be called Everything Healthy snacking bread. I was gifted a few cups of freshly milled spelt flour. The note on the bag documented the exact milling time and with the warning 'best used within 72 hours'.

I was not in the mood for making bread and not wanting to offend the person who generously gave me the flour, I began thinking about other healthy options. And also with the provision that I do not have to go out to the grocery store for more ingredients. Thus, this everything healthy snacking bread was created.

Haskaps are a nutrient and antioxidant rich berry that has been adapted from its original home in Russia to suit our soils and climate. It is a registered trademark of the University of Saskatchewan. This link will take you to their web page describing the work that is being done.

There are only a few orchards growing this commercially. Mine came from Northern Lights Orchard in Birch Hills, SK.

Haskaps are very tart and usually they require a lot of sugar and cooking to be palatable. This has been the drawback for me. I don't want to consume all that added sugar. In this loaf they are like raisins. They add a pop of flavour and colour without tons of sugar. The haskaps are very juicy when they are thawed. If added while still frozen they stay in tact in the bread without colouring the dough purple.

I used whey because I had just made ricotta. A by-product is whey. It works well in baking like this.

This is not a sweet bread. If you want it to be sweet then I would add more honey. This morning I piled on my homemade ricotta slightly sweetened with honey and Meyer lemon zest for a guilt-free breakfast.

Spelt and Haskap Quick Bread

1 1/2 c. whole spelt flour
3/4 c. old fashioned oatmeal, plus more
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. butter, melted
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c. whey
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. whole frozen haskaps

Grease and flour a standard size loaf pan. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F.

Measure and whisk dry ingredients into a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer add honey, butter and eggs. Beat until frothy. Add bananas, vanilla and whey and beat again.

With a spatula mix in the dry ingredients just until the flour is moistened. Add haskaps, frozen, and mix to incorporate.

Pour into a prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with more oatmeal, if desired, and bake at 350 F for about 40 minutes. Test doneness by lightly touching the top of the loaf. It should spring back. You can also use a skewer to poke into the loaf. If it comes out dry, the loaf is baked.


Fiddlehead Cream Soup

There is nothing like the waning days of winter to arouse the desire for spring. I feel like I have been trapped in my house foreva. Now is the time we should be checking the freezer and be sure all last summer's bounty has been consumed.

I have fiddleheads and must use them before the new crop arrives. This soup is adapted from one of my all time favourite cookbooks The Silver Palate Good Times.

Fiddlehead Cream Soup
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion
5 c. homemade chicken or mushroom stock
1 lb. fiddleheads
1 c. dry white wine
1 c. whole milk
1 c. cream
1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
3 tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste
piment d'esplet

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and add onions. Cook gently over medium heat until soft and transparent. Add stock, wine and fiddleheads. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Cool slightly. Put in blender or food processor. Add milk, cream, nutmeg, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Pour back into the Dutch oven and gently heat until hot. Ladle into 6 or 8 soup bowls and garnish with piment d'esplet. Serve immediately.


Chinese Hot and Sour Soup

This is one of my favourite authentic Chinese recipes. This is so easy to make. The surprise to me in this recipe is that the spiciness or heat comes from the white pepper that is added. I have always thought there was a sriachi or hot sauce. Nope, simply white pepper.

This recipe will come together much more smoothly if all the ingredients are chopped, measured and ready to add before beginning to cook. In French this is called mise en place, everything in its place. Chop, measure and line up the ingredients so you can focus on combining them in creating pure alchemy with this recipe for Hot and Sour Soup.

Many of the same ingredients are used over and over again in this cuisine. If you are a fan then it is worth building a pantry.


 Chinese Hot and Sour Soup

2/3 c. boneless pork loin, cut into 1/4 inch strips 
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
4 small Chinese dried shitake mushrooms
3/4 c. dried black fungus
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 c. canned sliced bamboo shoots, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch wide strips
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. rice vinegar, unseasoned
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. vegetable oil for frying
4 c. using mushroom soaking liquid and sodium reduced chicken stock
3 to 4 oz. firm tofu, rinsed and drained, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large egg
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
2 tbsp. thinly sliced green onions
2 tbsp. fresh whole cilantro leaves
Toss pork with dark soy sauce until well coated. 

Soak shitake and black fungus in boiling hot water to cover, about 30 minutes.  Cut out and discard stems from shitakes, then squeeze excess liquid from caps and thinly slice. Squeeze liquid from black fungus. Trim any hard nubs. In another bowl, stir together 1/4 cup (60 mL) cooled mushroom soaking liquid with cornstarch and set aside.

Stir together vinegars, light soy sauce, sugar and salt. 

Heat a wok or heavy pan over high heat. Add vegetable oil and stir fry pork until it just changes colour, about one minute. Add shitake mushrooms, black fungus and bamboo shoots and stir fry one minute. 

Add stock and bring to a boil, then add tofu. Return to a boil and add vinegar mixture. Stir in cornstarch mixture and return to a boil. Liquid will thicken. Reduce heat to moderate and simmer one minute. 

Beat egg with a fork and add sesame oil. Add egg to soup in a thin stream, stirring slowly in one direction with a spoon. Stir in white pepper. Sprinkle with green onions and cilantro before serving.  Makes 6-8 first courses. (Adapted from Bruce Cost)


Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage

Victoria on Vancouver Island is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown established during the Gold Rush of the early 1850’s. It is the second oldest in North America. At its peak over 40,000 immigrants lived in a few square blocks in the city centre. To this day it remains a vibrant place to shop for Asian ingredients, vegetables, fish and meat.  

While I was in the city I joined Chef Heidi Fink on her culinary tour. Heidi is in her tenth year leading cooking enthusiasts through the grocery stores, restaurants and teashops and shares her wealth of knowledge of Oriental cuisine. 

Sticky rice is one of my favourite dim sum dishes. Usually it is wrapped in lotus leaves but I cannot find lotus leaves. I have actually had it served to me in a rice steamer in a Chinatown restaurant and this is how I am making it at home.

Cantonese sausage can be found in the freezer section of an Asian grocery.

Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage 
These are usually found in lotus leaf packages but I can't find lotus leaves. I don't like the flavour of banana leaves so I just steam them in a parchment lined bamboo steamer.

1 1/4 c. short grain glutinous sweet rice
4 Chinese dried shitake mushrooms, also called black mushrooms
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tsp. cornstarch
2 links Cantonese sweet sausage, also called lop cheong
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. dark soy
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp. cold water
2 tbsp. vegetable oil for stir frying
1/4 tsp. Asian sesame oil
black pepper or white pepper, to taste

Cover rice with cold water and soak for one hour.  Then drain and steam in a bamboo steamer lined with cheesecloth.

Meanwhile, soak mushrooms in boiling hot water until softened, about 30 minutes. Cut out and discard stems, then squeeze excess liquid from caps and thinly slice caps. Save mushroom soaking liquid for another use.

Thinly slice green onions keeping pale green and white parts separate from dark green parts. Quarter sausage lengthwise and finely chop.

Heat wok or large heavy pan over high heat and add vegetable oil. Add mushrooms, sausage and pale green and white parts of green onions, stir fry one minute. Add rice and stir fry, breaking up any clumps, one minute. Add sesame oil, then add pepper and remaining green onions and stir fry until combined well.  Steam in a bamboo steamer lined with parchment paper for about 15 minutes. 

Makes 8-10 side dishes. (Adapted from Bruce Cost)